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About this poet

Gerald Stern was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on February 22, 1925. His recent books of poetry include Galaxy Love (W. W. Norton, 2017); Divine Nothingness (W. W. Norton, 2014); In Beauty Bright (W. W. Norton, 2012); Early Collected Poems: 1965-1992 (W. W. Norton, 2010), Save the Last Dance (2008); Everything Is Burning (2005); American Sonnets (2002); Last Blue: Poems (2000); This Time: New and Selected Poems (1998), which won the National Book Award; Odd Mercy (1995); and Bread Without Sugar (1992), winner of the Paterson Poetry Prize.

His other books include Stealing History (Trinity University Press, 2012); Leaving Another Kingdom: Selected Poems (1990); Two Long Poems (1990); Lovesick (1987); Paradise Poems (1984); The Red Coal (1981), which received the Melville Caine Award from the Poetry Society of America; Lucky Life, the 1977 Lamont Poetry Selection of the Academy of American Poets, which was nominated for a National Book Critics Circle Award; and Rejoicings (1973).

About his work, Toi Derricotte has said, "Gerald Stern has made an immense contribution to American poetry. His poems are not only great poems, memorable ones, but ones that get into your heart and stay there. Their lyrical ecstasies take you up for that moment so that your vision is changed, you are changed. The voice is intimate, someone unafraid to be imperfect. Gerald Stern’s poems sing in praise of the natural world, and in outrage of whatever is antihuman."

His honors include the Paris Review's Bernard F. Conners Award, the Bess Hokin Award from Poetry, the Ruth Lilly Prize, four National Endowment for the Arts grants, the Pennsylvania Governor's Award for Excellence in the Arts, the Jerome J. Shestack Poetry Prize from American Poetry Review, and fellowships from the Academy of American Poets, the Guggenheim Foundation, and the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts. In 2005, Stern was selected to receive the Wallace Stevens Award for mastery in the art of poetry.

Stern was elected a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets in 2006. For many years a teacher at the University of Iowa Writers' Workshop, Stern now lives in Lambertville, New Jersey.

Galaxy Love

There’s too little time left to measure
the space between us for that was
long ago—that time—so just lie
under the dark blue quilt and put
the fat pillows with the blue slips
on the great windowsill so we can
look over them and down to the
small figures hurrying by
in total silence and think of the heat
up here and the cold down there
while I turn the light off with the right
hand and gather you in close with the wrong.

From Galaxy Love: Poems by Gerald Stern. Copyright © 2017 by Gerald Stern. Used with permission of W. W. Norton & Company, Inc.

From Galaxy Love: Poems by Gerald Stern. Copyright © 2017 by Gerald Stern. Used with permission of W. W. Norton & Company, Inc.

Gerald Stern

Gerald Stern

Gerald Stern was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in 1925. His recent poetry collections include Galaxy Love (W. W. Norton, 2017); Divine Nothingness (W. W. Norton, 2014); In Beauty Bright (W. W. Norton, 2012); Early Collected Poems: 1965-1992 (W. W. Norton, 2010), and Save the Last Dance (2008).

by this poet

poem
As if the one tree you love so well and hardly
can embrace it is so huge so that with-
out it there might be a hole in the universe
explains how the killing of any one thing can 
likewise make a hole except that without
its existence there was neither a hole nor not a hole
I said to my friend Peter and after he
poem

Don’t ever think of Coney Island
where the rabbits once ran wild
or the afternoon we went swimming
though it was only May for we had graduated
and we spent the night eating hot dogs at Nathan’s
and took the Screamer back to 96th Street.

Nor should you love too much the white pole

poem

I resisted spending money and I held fast
against almost everything, including
washing machines and cheap cars.

I lived by my wits, you know that,
and came back to America
with eighteen dollars in my pocket,
but there were many of us
mostly in Dutch freighters
that unloaded